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Discover, Watch, Listen: Every Life is a Universe – The Other Side of the Coin

Rescued Hostages – Saving entire universes

Two weeks ago I wrote a blog post about the four deceased Israeli hostages who were recovered from Gaza. I framed my writing with the following Jewish teaching:

Whoever destroys a single life, the Torah considers it as if they destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a single life, the Torah considers it as if they saved an entire world.

Talmud, Sanhedrin 37a

Indeed, four universes were destroyed and will never be recovered. May their memories be a blessing. AND: even as we are all still processing this news and our grief, our emotions have experienced whiplash as we recently witnessed the rescue of four Israeli hostages. All four were abducted from the Nova Music Festival on October 7th. Their names are: 

  • Almog Meir Jan
  • Andrey Kozlov
  • Noa Argamani
  • Shlomi Ziv

Judaism lifts up the redeeming of captives – known as Pidyon Shvuyim – as one of the greatest mitzvot one can do, calling it a “Mitzvah Rabbah,” literally, a great/huge mitzvah. As the above Talmudic text teaches us, saving a life is as if one has saved an entire universe. 

I must admit that my joy in learning about their newfound freedom is tempered with the gut-wrenching cry that pours out of me as I count the days, weeks, and months since October 7th: 

Where is our public outcry for their release? We may not be able to effect change on the ground, but what we can do is gather together and pray for their freedom.

I am sure you join me in praying and hoping for their return home. To that end, I hope you will join me at Shabbat morning tefillah this weekend on June 22 where we will sing “Acheinu”, a prayer for freeing captives. These words have been included in Jewish prayers for 1000 years and offer hope for abductees to move from narrowness to expanse and from darkness to light. We join Jewish communities in Toronto and around the world in offering these words of hope.

Nova Festival Exhibit in NYC

Last week was horrific: hundreds of people descended onto lower Manhattan to protest outside an exhibit called “The Moment the Music Stood Still,” about the attack on the Nova Music Festival on October 7th where 364 people were murdered by Hamas. According to ABC news, some of the protestors tried to storm the exhibit and “[a]mong the demonstrators were the flag of Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group sworn to Israel’s destruction, and the military flag of Hamas.” I am not often at a loss for words but find myself dumbfounded at this news. I echo US Senator Chuck Schumer’s remarks that he shared on the Senate floor:

Having visited the exhibit and seeing those young people and then knowing and seeing on film what happened to them at the vicious hands of Hamas, and then having people come outside and protest and say “Long Live October 7th” and “The Zionists are not Jews and not humans.” How repugnant. How despicable. How terribly unnerving that humanity could sink that low. It is the lowest of the low for anyone to protest an exhibit dedicated to honoring the memory of the precious lives that were brutally murdered by Hamas. It is sick that anyone should show up to an exhibit like this to protest.

— Senator Chuck Schumer

From Rabbi Ilyse Glickman:

This is our ongoing blog series to introduce the DJC community to podcasts, books, websites, and other media offerings that may expand our understandings of the current war in particular and Israel/Palestine more broadly. I hope you listen/watch/read these recommendations with curiosity, openness, and empathy. Please let me know what you think about today’s offerings: rabbiglickman@djctoronto.com. I look forward to the conversation.

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